|Mobilizing science for global food security. Third External Review of IFPRI (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research ) (1998)|
|Chapter 2 - IFPRI Research and Outreach Activities|
|2.3 Markets and Structural Studies Division (MSSD)|
The activities of the MSSD are worthy of praise, and the Division is clearly on the right track. The only weakness worth mentioning here, is in the Divisions methodology as opposed to the substance of its studies. Surveys and direct field observation are obviously the primary research methodologies, and just inferring hypotheses from the mere inspection of data (or even from the sophisticated analysis) is not sufficient for establishing valid results. A synthesis is often necessary just as in chemistry a synthesis brings the proof that an analysis is complete. In some cases, the Panels impression was that, although synthesis of data was certainly not excluded from the activities of the Division, it could have proved productive to place more importance on it. In particular, original models explaining poor market integration over geographic space, such as was observed, for instance, in Vietnam or in Egypt by the Division, or in other locations by various authors, are badly needed. Similarly, sectoral models of food processing industries should be systematically explored, in view of the growing importance of urbanisation, which increases the complexity of the channels between producers and consumers. The models should have a dynamic component and should often include financial and risk considerations (particularly in view of its findings regarding those constraints in Africa), thereby being suitable not only for ad hoc studies, but also as inputs for macro models, such as those developed by the Trade and Macroeconomic Division.
In recent years, MSSD has increasingly been working and publishing on international trade policy aspects. Given its mandate, it is difficult to avoid doing so. Indeed, the Panel encourages MSSD to continue do so.
Indeed, the Panel would push the logic to other divisions in IFPRI as well and recommends that:
In designing its research every division within IFPRI should bear in mind that developing countries now have increasingly open economies, and that the planned research should take into full account the countrys interactions with the rest of the world.
Another type of study the Division should consider adding to its research portfolio is in the field of political science: how are decisions about food policy made at government or regional levels. A better understanding of decision processes would likely make the application of the Divisions findings easier and their impact deeper. Such research could even help IFPRI to avoid inappropriate outreach policy. However, care must be taken to connect the political science strongly to the mainstream of the Divisions work. In addition, although the sociology of organizations is a science with universally accepted principles, IFPRI staff must be aware that its applicability to any particular situation is subject to quickly evolving contingencies, thus making findings in this domain difficult to generalize.